Henrico County VA
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Top Teachers: Jill Morris

Pemeberton E.S., first grade
On her first day as a teacher, Jill Morris stood outside her classroom door, greeting children with a wide smile as they came down the hallway. One little girl stopped, looked up at Morris, then looked down. . . and threw up on Morris’ shoes.

It was an inauspicious start, to be sure, but it didn’t faze the young teacher.

“The nurturing side of me kicked in quickly, and I picked her up and didn’t really care about the mess on my feet,” she recalled.

The years since that day in Fairfax County have been smoother sailing, and Morris has distinguished herself as a caring, thoughtful teacher during her seven years at Henrico’s Pemberton Elementary, where she teaches first grade.

“No matter who I have in my classroom, I want them to feel loved and valued and know that there is someone in their corner,” she said. “No matter who walks through my door, I’m their champion.”

First-graders bring Morris much joy because of their wide-eyed love of school and of learning. Her students are excited about using computers, taking pictures and recording their voices for presentations.

“When a group of students smile, that means a lot,” Morris said.

Parents, including one who nominated Morris, have noticed her efforts.

“She goes out of her way to check on her past students to make sure they are still on the path to success,” one nominator wrote. “Jill volunteers her time to help with the school plays and musicals. This takes a huge amount of her personal time, but she is there to support the children and make them the best they can be.”

Morris has been in charge of the backstage crew for the school’s musical, which are produced every other year.

“You get an opportunity to see a student shine when maybe they wouldn’t in the classroom,” she said.

She experienced that firsthand several years ago when she convinced one student to participate in that year’s musical, even though he wasn’t sure he was talented enough. His enthusiasm for the role was evident throughout, though, and his mother told Morris how thankful she was for the teacher’s encouragement.

“He stood there beaming as his mother told me that,” Morris recalled. “He was so proud.”

A few weeks later, the boy’s mother died. He moved out of state to live with his aunt, who wrote Morris a letter explaining how much the experience – and the lasting memory of his mother’s pride – meant to the boy. The next year, the boy came back to visit and gave Morris a big hug.

“Those are the touching moments that you will never forget as a teacher,” she said.
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

CAT Theatre announces cast of Sherlock Holmes play

CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run from Oct. 24-Nov. 8. Adapted by Steven Dietz, it is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.

The plot follows what seems to be the end of the career of the world’s greatest detective as he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer Irene Adler, Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. As Holmes says, “The game is afoot Watson, and it is a dangerous one!” > Read more.

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


TGIF! Celebrate the weekend at Oak Hall Baptist Church’s Community Block Party on Saturday. Learn more about ballroom dancing, art and Colonial times. Or take the kids to Generation Z Games for water play or Southern Season to cook up a Disney-theme meal. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Calendar

Registration ends today for the Henrico NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner on Sept. 27 at Quioccasin Baptist Church, 9011 Quioccasin Rd. The speaker will be Ms. Clayola Brown, president of A.… Full text

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